Adult & Teen Discussion Guide
All of us were born with a “me” – shaped lens, a world view where the our values and decisions are based on our physical urges, desires, and what benefits us. When we come to God, we get access to a new way of looking at things – a “God” – lens, where our values and decisions are subjected to His ways and His plans. The trouble is, the “me” lens doesn’t just go quietly…
Romans 8:6-7 [NLT] “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.”
The “me” lens, our default sinful-nature view, will always push for dominance. Through the Spirit’s power, we have to choose God’s view in every situation in life.
Q. What areas do you think people in today’s culture have the hardest time choosing God’s lens in?
Q. What area(s) do you have the hardest time choosing God’s lens in?
Romans 6:1-2 [NLT] “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Serving God is a constant series of choices to use His lens instead of ours. Every new topic is a new battleground, but the longer we fight, the better we get at choosing God’s way.
Q. What’s an area that used to be a me vs. God lens struggle for you, but has improved?
Q. What’s an area that’s still a contested battle? God doesn’t expect perfection, but He does expect persistence. Don’t give up! Keep fighting to use God’s perspective!
3. Prayer Focus
Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for redeeming your Spirit and giving you access to a better way to see the world. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to choose His way in every situation in life.
Family with Small Children Discussion Guide
1. Power Verse
Psalms 82:3-4 “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
What’s Up: “God wants us to share His love, and help others in every way we can!”
In this week’s lesson we learned that God loved us so much, that He gave His son Jesus to die for us. He wants us to do everything we can to share His love all around the world. One of the ways we can do that is by giving to BGMC, (Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge.)
Q. In what ways has God blessed our family?
Q. What are some ways that we can share the things He has given us?
Q. Why is it important that we try to help others?
God has blessed us with many things, like a great church, a wonderful family, a home, food, and so much more. We have a lot of friends and family that could help us out if we needed something. He expects us to help boys, girls, and families that don’t have friends to help out.
The kids at our church are working with BGMC to help boys and girls at a school in Thailand.
Q. What can you tell me about these kids and their school?
Q. What are 3 things that we can do together this week, to help meet our kids church missions giving goal?
4. Prayer Focus
Pray for the children at the Shang Rai Christian School in the mountains of Thailand. Ask God to keep them safe and that the missionaries and teachers would be a great blessing to them. Pray that our kids would be excited about giving to missions, and God would give them creative and fun ideas to meet our BGMC goal to pay for all the kids to attend the school for one year.
Adult & Teen Discussion Guide
Everyone views life through a set of lenses – priorities, values, and expectations that help them make sense of the world around them. Those lenses filter what light (truth) comes in… but for those who are Christians, the lens has just as much of an impact in the other direction.
The lens you use for life affects the way God’s light shines through you.
2 Corinthians 3:17 [NLT] “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.”
The lens you view life through filters not only your beliefs, but also your actions, words, and attitudes. As God’s representatives to our world, it’s up to us to show those who are lost – by our behavior – what it means to be a Christian. We should be, as best we can, an accurate representation of what God’s life change looks like in a person.
Q. When you think about reflecting the “glory of the Lord,” what types of imagery comes to your mind? Does it seem like an everyday-life thing, or a mystic, other-worldly thing?
Q. When you consider the definition of “glory” – renown, honor, magnificence, beauty – does that change how “reflecting God’s glory” looks in your mind? How so?
It’s the work of the Holy Spirit to calibrate your lens to reflect God’s glory properly.
2 Corinthians 3:18 [NLT] “And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
Q. If someone from the outside commented on your life from 5 years ago versus today, what differences in words, actions, and attitudes would they see?
Q. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the level of contrast between how you live your life (as a Christian) versus how people who don’t serve God live?
Q. What could you do this week to allow the Holy Spirit to work on your lens?
3. Prayer Focus
Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for allowing you to see His glory and to know Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep shaping the lens you see life through so you can be a good reflection for people who are spiritually lost to see.
Family with Small Children Discussion Guide
How to Make Your Life Count
1. Power Verse
Philippians 2:13 “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
What’s Up: “God Can Use Me To Change The World!”
This week, we conclude our series called, “You Only Live Once” or “YOLO.” We’ve been learning some important lessons about making our lives count! Since we only live once, we need to make sure we do our very best to honor God with our lives and remain faithful to Him.
Q. What do you think it means to make a difference in the world?
Q. Do you feel like you’re currently making a big difference in the world?
Sometimes it can be difficult to imagine yourself making a massive difference for the Kingdom of God. Changing the world or making a huge impact can seem pretty intimidating!
This week, we learned how Esther made a difference with her life. She really made her life count!
We learned that we can make a difference too, if we take the right steps.
Q. What have you done to live differently than the rest of the world?
Q. What can you do in order to live differently than the rest of the world?
Q. How often do you pray and seek God’s direction for your life?
Q. What can you do to make a big difference for the Kingdom of God? Will you be able to do it on your own? What steps should you take to accomplish this?
We can really learn from Esther’s example to live different than the rest of the world, pray and seek God’s direction, and always remember just ONE person plus God can make a huge difference!
4. Prayer Focus
Pray that your children will do everything they can to make their lives count and make a difference! Pray they will set themselves apart from this world and choose to seek and obey God’s direction in their lives.
Adult & Teen Discussion Guide
Everybody looks at life through a lens – a set of preconceptions about what’s valuable, what motivates actions, what is versus what should be. That lens makes a huge difference in our lives – especially when it comes to how we view God.
Luke 11:34-35 [NLT] “When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.”
The lens we view life through can bring God’s truth… or it can fool us into believing a lie. Too many people in our world have the wrong outlook on life because their lens is filtering things in a negative way.
Q. What sorts of factors might affect the way someone looks at life? (i.e. upbringing, hurts & failures, etc.)
Q. What factors in your past (or present) do you think have the most influence on the way you look at life? that impact your quality of life? What other areas in your life might improve?
Many people who heard Jesus’ teaching couldn’t accept Him as the Messiah (the promised savior) because their filters were set on a military leader who would liberate the Jews from Roman occupancy. As a result, they were blind to the truth that could save them. In the same way, people today have skewed filters for what kind of savior Jesus is supposed to be. If we want to be able to hear and accept the truth, we need to have the right lens. The one that comes from God’s source of truth- the Bible.
Q. What are some preconceptions people have about Jesus that might not be accurate?
Q. How do you think those misconceptions might keep someone from being saved or living a healthy spiritual life?
Q. What can you do to make sure your own lens is allowing you to see Jesus accurately?
3. Prayer Focus
Take a few minutes as a family: thank God for allowing you to understand and accept the good news of Jesus, our Messiah. Ask the Holy Spirit to continually shape your lens by the truth of the Bible, so you can see life the way that He wants you to see it.
Family with Small Children Discussion Guide
Lessons From Esther
1. Power Verse
John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.”
What’s Up: “I’ll Trust God & I Will Obey!”
This week, we continue our series called, “You Only Live Once” or “YOLO.” We’re learning some important lessons about making our lives count! Since we only live once, we need to make sure we do our very best to honor God with our life and remain faithful to Him.
Q. What do you think the word “trust” means?
Q. Have you ever been in a situation where it was hard to trust someone?
Q. Have you ever been in a situation where it was hard to trust God?
This week we learned about Esther. She found herself in a pretty tough situation. When Mordecai told her of Haman’s plan to destroy the Jews, she could have thought only about herself and played it safe. She could have ignored Mordecai’s request and never told the King how evil Haman was. However, Esther made the tough choice to trust God and obey Him.
Queen Esther spoke up and, as a result, the Jews were saved. She was brought into the kingdom for that special moment, & she didn’t waste it.
Q. In the situation you described earlier, did you end up trusting God?
Q. What did you do? How did it turn out?
Q. What can we do to strengthen our ability to trust God?
Q. What can we do to make sure we’re ready and able to “seize our moment” when the time comes?
If we will trust God, obey Him, and seize our moment – God will bless us big-time!
4. Prayer Focus
Pray for your children to trust God and look for their “moment.” Pray for them if they are struggling to obey God’s commands. Remind them that blessing follows obedience. God is good. We can trust Him.
I’m not sure how many of you frequent Facebook but I would guess that many of you do. One of the things that most often frustrates me about the postings there are the ones that sound something like…. “Ten reasons why youth are leaving your church”, or “Why everybody hates church music,” or “64 reasons American Churches are Dying.” I just don’t get it! First, what makes the people who write these things experts on the church in America, and how were they able to sample a sufficient number of churches to make such all-inclusive remarks? No one has ever visited our church to assess its health and I’ve never gotten a call asking me about how our youth or music ministry is going.
In truth, this feels more like an attempt to shape the narrative in our country in regard to the church. Surely we’ve learned by now that one of the ploys of those opposed to a thing is to simply begin reporting on it’s demise and before long people believe it’s dead and actual death soon follows. My personal experience today is that the truth is far from these reports.
I’ve got many pastor friends that are reporting great advancement of their churches. Here at Abundant Life we are experiencing growth and advancement across the board and we are expecting more and more. Walls that have kept people apart for generations are being torn down and in almost every area of ministry we are experiencing an abundance of life! You can feel that what historically has been called revival is coming to the river bend and young and old alike are drawing closer and closer to God. We’re coming off of one of our greatest financial years in the history of the church and we are touching not only our region but all over the world!
In short… Who’s report will you believe? Those who would report the church’s demise are simply not telling the truth or any semblance of the truth. God is growing his church and just as always… Nothing will prevail against it!
As I was preparing for our Wednesday night class on the book of Revelation I came across a statement that stopped me in my tracks. The statement was this, “the final form of world religion will be apostate, satanic, and blasphemous.”
I absolutely believe that this will be the end state of the world as we know it so this thought didn’t surprise me. We believe that ultimately, much of mankind will forsake God and turn towards a false leader who will bring into being a completely apostate and heretical world religion. The thought that caught me off guard was the potential existence of intermediate steps that would move the world to this state and further, that some of those steps were most likely occurring right now.
As with any societal change I suspect that there will be a whole series of small changes that will feel as if they are inconsequential and perhaps even wholesome while actually being a step away from God and towards Antichrist. These changes won’t feel that way because following the old adage, “How do you eat a elephant? One bite at a time.” holds true here as well. World-shaping societally accepted change does not occur in a moment but rather over long periods of time with few rapid changes, but rather with many small changes.
I guess what I’m hoping for in writing this blog, is that some of those who believe that the recent changes in both the church and society are for the good, will examine those changes and conclude that the direction of change is not towards God but rather away from Him. These are indeed incremental changes moving us towards a religion that is indeed anti-christ.
The scriptures speak of this time in many places. Consider these verses:
Matthew 24:24 (ESV) “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”
Matthew 24:12 (ESV) “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”
2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV) “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”
If the ultimate outcome of this world is a religious state completely void of God, if this state evolves slowly over a great deal of time, and these small changes are occurring today, what should we do?
Here are a few things that I think we would be well served by doing:
- Be very careful about what we embrace and the beliefs that we hold.
- Maintain a very close attachment and devotion to the scriptures as our final authority on all things.
- Be willing to challenge each other in love concerning our lifestyles and what we embrace.
- Be unwilling to compromise scriptural truths even when we might be shunned for our beliefs.
- Openly share our beliefs and evangelize to those around us.
God promises to bless those who follow Him. Be careful of the life that you live because the enemy of our souls is cunning and I believe this movement away from the things of God is both obvious and increasing in magnitude.
I want to address an issue that I seem to consistently run into. In a very general way the issue is this: What position should the church take in reference to people living a lifestyle that the scriptures clearly indicate is sin? The questions can often be phrased differently, but the core issue is the same. Some of the ways this question has come up recently include these:
- Should a couple who are living together and are unmarried be allowed to serve in church leadership or in a visible place of ministry?
- Would you allow a homosexual to attend your church? Could they sing on the worship team?
- Can a person with an addiction serve in the children’s ministry?
Whenever these issues come up, those asking the question or supporting one side of the issue or the other always divide the issue along a line that places the love of God on one side and the legalism of religion on the other.
I often see entire churches orient themselves and even advertise themselves based upon which side of this line they fall on. Having decided to be either a “loving” church or a “righteous” church they collect people of a like mindset. One side says things like…
“We want people to be comfortable around us and we want them to feel our love and then by that they will eventually be drawn away from their sin and draw close to God.”
All the while the other side of that line is saying something like…
“We have a responsibility to represent a life sacrificed to the Lord and a freedom from sin so that people can see how to live for God.”
Honestly, I’m called to do both at the same time. Scripture admonishes the body of Christ to beware of either of these absolute positions.
Notice if you will 2 Timothy 4:3-4 where we read…
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3–4, ESV)
But also notice John 13:35…
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, ESV)
We in the church are commanded by God to do both of these at the same time. We are to love and to embrace sound doctrine. We are to love people while both teaching and setting an example of what a godly life looks like. How are we saved? Solely by grace! But the same grace that pays the price for our sins lifts us out of them. The same grace that removes the penalty for our sinful nature, gives us the ability to overcome it.
Ultimately as a pastor I am called to do the same thing Jesus was called to do. It was first written by the prophet Isaiah and then read by Jesus when he said…
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18–19, ESV)
We are to proclaim not only God’s favor but also that people can be free from the things that have kept them captive. They can regain their ability to see right from wrong. They can be more than they are not only in heaven but here as well!
Pastors are shepherds and as such we are to lead people in the right direction. That direction is away from sin and the things that might bind them. By lowering expectations grounded in the Word and expressed in an atmosphere of love we damage the potential of people and potentially create a misunderstanding in the lives of immature or new believers about the life that Christ calls us to; a life of sacrifice. Through the Holy Spirit lives can be radically transformed from lives bound and ravaged by sin’s use of the fleshly nature into lives free, whole, happy, and complete. One of the first steps in that transformation is a realization of what sin is and an acceptance of it’s destructive nature coupled by a community living in freedom from sin demonstrating the possibility of freedom. Said more simply, people have to know that something better is possible. People have to believe that God can make their lives better.
While it’s simplistic, here’s a video clip that illustrates what happens when people are challenged to be more than they think they can be.
People can accomplish incredible things, but they seldom do until they are challenged to do so. That challenge begins in the Word but the Word is often first realized through watching other’s lives then in reading it.
Let’s not be afraid to challenge people to press towards God and away from the world. Only in the challenge do we realize who we really are!
Let me introduce you to what I consider to be a very interesting and important aspect to our lives in consideration of the times that we are living in. Consider if you will an event from the Old Testament.
David was the sovereign king of Israel and God’s chosen ruler. God’s desire was that David would always depend on him rather than on his own strength or on the might of his armies. For that reason God had told David to never count his fighting men. David however, was stubborn and wanted to know how many men he had to depend on so in rebellion to God’s directive David had the fighting men counted. In response to this disobedience God gave David three choices, Three years of famine, three months of being at the mercy of his enemies, or three days of God’s judgment. David choose God’s judgment and in the days that followed 70,000 of David’s men died!
It is the immediacy of that judgment that I want you to notice.
Then consider the book of Revelation which is a prophetic telling of the days that will come at the end of this age when God’s judgment will once again be poured out upon mankind. The numbers of those who will die in rebellion to God are staggering. At different times we see both a fourth and a third of all humanity die on the earth. Literally this is billions of people.
Once again notice the severity and the immediacy of that judgment.
Then there is the period of time we are living in today. During our time it seems as if anything goes and that there is no reaction from God about anything.
Millions of babies are aborted each year, genocide occurs regularly, and anything which the scriptures declare is sacred to God seems to be fair game for men and women to trounce under their feet without a peep from heaven.
What changed? Where’s God? Is he even really there? If you are honest all of these are questions that you’ve asked or at least thought.
It is exactly this same situation and question that Peter is addressing in 2 Peter 3 when by the Holy Spirit’s direction he writes…
“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:3–13, NIV)
Right now we are living in what scholars have called a “dispensation of grace” or a time in which God has withheld his judgment because of the atonement of Jesus on the cross. Literally we are living in the middle of two periods of God’s judgment upon humanity, one behind us, and one in front of us. Because we live relatively short lives in reference to God’s interaction with mankind we can begin to believe only what we see and feel and we can begin to use only the experiences of our lives and the opinions of society around us to form the belief system that controls our actions, behaviors, and beliefs. This is very dangerous because just like all periods of grace this one will come to an end and God will once again judge the sinfulness of mankind. If we have used something other than God’s perspective, found in the Bible, as the rule for our lives we are falling prey to the world around us and are subject to His judgment.
Where are you today?
- Are the scriptures the basis for your life?
- Do you find yourself regularly being constrained and challenged by God’s word to become something more?
- Are you living a life that you will not be ashamed of when Christ returns?
- Are you living a life worthy of the kindness and grace that Jesus has afforded you and me?
- Do you feel out of sync with the philosophies and thinking of today’s world?
We should absolutely enjoy this period of God’s graciousness but let’s never forget that ultimately we all give an account for our lives and let’s live our lives with that day in mind.